A couple of days ago over at Clashing Culture, Anastasia wrote a piece entitled, What ID should focus on (take 2). As the title emplies, this is her 2nd try at addressing her thoughts about reconciling faith with science. You can read her 1st article and my response here.
As I really hate to leave really long comments on other people’s blogs, and as the topic does fit in my recent string of posts concerning epistemology, I thought I would respond to her post here as a separate post.
I appreciate your taking another run at this issue. However, while I agree in principle with a couple of things you have said, on the whole I find your understanding of Christianity to be quite naive, and think you’ve made some fundamental errors.
First, you, like many other people, are using the terms “ID” and “Creationism” synonymously when they really refer to 2 very different types of thinking. Both Creationists and ID proponents will bristle at this confusion. To you they may seem the same, but without recognizing the difference you will never be able to communicate your thoughts properly. Creationists, as the word is generally used today, refers to people who believe the Genesis account to the exclusion of any sort of evolutionary path of mankind. The term is broad enough to include many who do accept various forms of evolution, as well as the fundamentalists you refer to in your post. Creationism is a theological position, not a scientific one.
On the other hand (and I know you will take issue with this to some extent, but that’s another issue), the Discovery Institute and other ID proponents are not approaching the issue from a theological position. There are fellows at the Discovery Institute who are not Christians, and for that matter, are not even Deists. They take issue with various forms of evolutionary theories based on data, not theology. You can disagree with how they address the data, but as I said, that’s a different issue. Many who are considered IDists include those who believe in evolution in some forms, including common descent. Again, the term is broad, but the along a wholly different continuum than “Creationism.”
You have indicated that you find literal Creationism scary, because, as you state, you worry about children who “learn some biblical interpretation instead of reality.” Certainly, that is your position as a materialist. However, “reality” is a philosophical term. There are many scientists (I know some) who would argue with your concept of reality. Obviously, as you point out, you can be a scientiest without being a materialist, which brings me to another point:
You accuse the Discovery Institute of trying to kill “science as we know it, which they equate with materialism.” No, and yes. “Science as you know it” would be what is often called “scientific materialism,” “philosophical materialism,” or “scientism.” It is the belief – unprovable, at that – that there is no other reality outside of the material world. The Discovery Institute is opposed to this philosophy which has become wedded to science. As you have indicated your feelings about the Discovery Institute’s article, The “Wedge Document:” “So What?”, I would be very interested in hearing exactly what it is you find so scary there.
The point of your article was to address how these ID proponents should address current congregants and potential congregants. First, you make the error in assuming that the ID folks are in a sense “evangelical” as it relates to the Church. Actually, it isn’t. It’s not religion, and while there are a number of Christians who are interested in the topic, we don’t confuse it with theology. I would guess that the vast majority of Christians, including those who went to see “Expelled,” still don’t know who or what the Discovery Institute is, and don’t rightly care.
Now, here’s where I will wholeheartedly agree with you: those fundamentalists who have extremist and irrational views, as well-meaning as they may be, are dangerous. I’ve been working to undo damage they’ve done for many, many years, and not dealing with the Creation v Evolution issue; that is a meaningless side issue, as far as I’m concerned. The fundamentalist, ultra-right-wing wacko contingent are, in my opinion, misrepresenting the Gospel, and messing people up. If you read Galatians, the Apostle Paul was incensed at the legalists (the same basic issue) who tried to mess up the Galatian church, and suggested that they either be castrated or told to go to hell. If you don’t believe me, go read it yourself. It’s quite entertaining.
I also agree with you that to teach that science is evil is doing people a disservice. Science is merely a tool – it may be limited in what it can prove or disprove, but it is a decent tool nonetheless, and it was developed with the help of many good Catholics. I will take issue, however, that the public schools teach children critical thinking skills. I’m conspiracist enough to believe that what passes for critical thinking is more often than not brain-washing. My wife is a public school elementary teacher, so I’ve a little knowledge there.
I will also agree with you that it is important for people to properly reconcile their faith with science (and, I would add, history, philosophy, etc.), and I will deal with that further in an upcoming post. For far too many years, Christians were expected to keep their faith a “private matter” and never even tried to help people apply their faith to the “Gestalt” of their life. However, you are quite naive in your assumption that Christians in general have an issue with “forcing religion to fit inside a scientific argument.” Here, as I’ve said before, you really should get out more. There’s obviously a whole lot more going on in the contemporary church than you realize.
Now, your closing, encouraging us to “stay within our lanes” seems to contradict this reconciliation you just proposed. Science and religion are indeed “different animals.” However, they are not totally distinct, and never were – until scientific materialism tried to make them distinct. This is not a scientific argument, this is entirely philosophical. Science, as you say, cannot disprove that which is undetectable, at least by scientific methods. Here, you are more perceptive than folks like Richard Dawkins and Victor Stenger. Science by definition is limited to that which is observable, repeatable, and measurable. However, that says absolutely nothing about that which is outside the realm of science.
Your statement that “neither will religion be able to prove that god exists, except through faith” is correct in that, as you state, it is “far removed from the scientific method.” However, I think you are using the term “faith” pejoratively. There is a great deal of evidence for the Christian “faith.” I am not one of those who believes that one can “prove” anything; even believing that 2+2=4 has an element of faith. In fact, believing that the scientific method can provide reliable data takes faith.
I truly appreciate your willingness to address these issues in such a thoughtful manner, and encourage you to explore these issues a bit more. And, I’m serious: I would like to hear in detail why you feel the way you do about the Discovery Institute article.